5 Interesting Facts On Mesa Verde And Its Cliff Dwellings


Mesa Verde National Park is located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. It is famous for the cliff dwellings built by the Pueblo people including the massive Cliff Palace. Know more about the history, rediscovery and the wildlife of this UNESCO World Heritage Site through these 10 interesting facts.


#1 Over population led to the site being abandoned

Mesa Verde was inhabited by Ancestral Pueblo people from 600 A.D. to 1300 A.D. By the thirteenth century, their productive dry farming allowed the Mesa Verde population to grow perhaps as high as 5,000. Increased population and the 24-year regional drought placed the communities under stress. This is the possible reason why Ancestral Pueblo people left Mesa Verde. The 211 square kilometers national park contains ruins of homes and villages built by these people.

UNESCO world heritage site. Mesa Verde
Square Tower at Mesa Verde

#2 Mesa Verde is famous for its cliff dwellings

Mesa Verde National Park is famous for the cliff dwellings made by Pueblo people at the site. Cliff dwellings are structures that are built within caves and under protruding parts of the rocks. There are over 600 cliff dwellings at the site which are also one of the best preserved in the world.

#3 Cliff Dwellings were excellent defense against invaders

Cliff dwellings were built perhaps as a defense against invading groups. The cliff provided natural protection and the absence of doors and windows on ground floor meant that the solid outer stone walls could be surmounted only by climbing ladders, which could easily be removed during attack. Cliff dwellings also helped in managing solar energy. In the summer, the village was protected from direct sunlight due to the angle of the sun. In winters the angle of the sun warmed the masonry of the cliff dwellings and the warm breeze which blew from the valley made the air 10-20 degrees warmer than on top.

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Mesa Verge - The Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace

#4 The Cliff Palace is the largest and most famous dwelling at Mesa Verde

In 1888 two cowboys, while tracking stray cattle in a snowstorm, spotted a cliff dwelling. By climbing down a makeshift ladder they explored the network of rooms with stone tools, pottery, and other artifacts  They named it the Cliff Palace. The Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America and the most famous one at Mesa Verde. It has 150 rooms and 23 kivas. Kivas are rooms used for ritual and cultural purposes. It is estimated that around 100 people inhabited the Cliff Palace. One of the most remarkable structures in the Cliff Palace is the Square Tower House which at 26 feet is the tallest building in Mesa Verde.

Mexican Spotted Owl can be seen at Mesa Verde
Mexican Spotted Owl

#5 Mesa Verde National Park is home to many rare species

In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt approved the creation of the Mesa Verde National Park to ‘preserve the works of man’. ‘Mesa’ is the Spanish word for table while ‘Verde’ is the Spanish word for green. Hence Mesa Verde translates into English as ‘green table’. The park was named so because of its forests of juniper and pinon trees. The park protects over 4700 archaeological sites. It is also home to thousands of species of rare, diverse wildlife. The Mexican spotted owl, the peregrine falcon, the Albert’s Squirrel, the Colorado pike-minnow and the Mesa Verde tiger beetle are a few of them.

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